Around this time last year, we were here: chemo graduation day.
My Dad had been given the best news possible – he’d been misdiagnosed! The leukemia he was suffering from was a much less aggressive or rare type than the PLL he’d originally been given. I received the call from him while at work.
“Kris, are you coming to chemo today?” (He’d had chemo for 3-4 days per week and I went at least half that time, working remotely from his room.)
“Not today, Dad. Remember? I have meetings at the office. I’ll be there tomorrow for sure though.”
“Well… you’d better hurry over here today.” (Pause, smile in the voice…) “Because it’s my last round of chemo. They’re graduating me today!”
My answer, smiling all the time: “I’ll be right there.”
Once I hung up that phone, I was outta the office and skipping to the car. I remember the “happy”. After months of a terrible cancer diagnosis (and the average 5-7 month life expectancy) hanging over us, I welcomed the old friend back into my heart. As I drove through town, I remembered things I hadn’t noticed in a while. Laughter came back. I recalled what a smile felt like when it curls at the corner of your lips. And I noticed the sunshine, even turned on upbeat tunes on the radio. The threat of cancer, pain, grief, the unknown, even death… They couldn’t hold us anymore. I drove along with these things as new, welcome companions. I made it with enough time to sit through his last chemo treatment and celebrate as the nurses came in with smiles, all happy when a patient doesn’t come back to their chemo center because it’s for a good reason.
We snapped the photo you see here. Smiles: genuine, long-lost in a way. They came back. I hugged my Dad’s arm and said: “You make me proud. You did it, Dad, and you never complained.”
Flash forward to October.
Cancer came back and the misdiagnosis went out the window. Once again, we faced the aggressive and rare PLL leukemia. We were staring the unknown in the face again, only this time, it was from a hospital room. And though I could never say we were happy, we were greeted by many other things. As I sat by my Dad’s hospital bed, I read passages in Joshua (1:9, for courage), passages in Romans (ch. 8, for encouragement) and John (ch. 13-14, for hope), and focused time studying the book of Matthew (we desperately needed Jesus).
Seconds ticked by on the clock on the wall. I sat by his ICU bed. We were alone. The monitors beeped behind him. It was the middle of the night. Hushed. Quiet. Nurses passed by the door behind us. And I sat, feeling like a little girl again, holding his giant hand in mine. Reading those scriptures aloud so he’d known I was there. Squeezing his fingertips. Whispering, “You make me proud. You’re going to heaven and you never complained. I will never forget how proud I am of you in this moment.”
This post is very personal, I know. It’s got a bit of a heart-sting to it and it might be hard for some to read. But I wanted to be real with you. This time of year is rough for our family, as we’re reflecting on one year since we’ve lost the everyday-fellowship of someone we dearly love. He’s in heaven; this I know. And we’re not yet to our home; this I know as well. But what I also know, what I wanted to share with you today, is that “happy” does eventually come back. Happy is fickle, but it’s not gone for good. It’s based on our circumstances and when those change, we can find a smile again. But joy? True joy, though we walk a sometimes painful road… that comes from Jesus and Jesus alone. I had joy in that ICU room. I had joy while I cried tears of grief. I still had joy buried in my heart as we stood by a graveside. And I have joy to this day because of Him.
Writing a book is an amazing journey. It’s everything I thought it would be and more. I don’t take the joy of it lightly. It’s been my dream, the dream of our family, and the dream my Dad had for me for the last many years. But more than that, at a depth of the heart that goes to those vulnerable places we’re usually reluctant to share with others, I must tell you that…
Whatever you’re going through today, whether you have “happy” or not – He knows and He cares. He offers healing. Peace. Hope. Joy when you’re tapped-out and a smile when you’re someday ready for it again. And I hope our journey from a year ago can help you share yours. I’d love to be real with each other. I’ll be the first to tell you that I don’t have it all figured out. I assure you – I’m just a girl who loves Jesus and who truly misses her Daddy.
Whatever your story, I hope you feel safe to share it. We don’t have to ask the question anymore. Look up in the toughest moments and you’ll find the same answer we did – He sees.